The Toronto Maple Leafs have signed one of their top prospects, inking Rodion Amirov to a three-year entry-level contract. Notably, the deal will not start until the 2021-22 season, meaning Amirov is not eligible to play for the Maple Leafs right away. In the release, the team indicates that he will be joining the Toronto Marlies and the organization’s development system as soon as his visa and quarantine is sorted out. GM Kyle Dubas released a short statement on the young forward:
"Our Club is pleased to have Rodion formally signed today. We look forward to welcoming Rodion to Canada in the coming weeks and having him begin working with our player development staff in Toronto. We also look forward to continuing to work with Ufa with his development next season. Ufa has done an excellent job guiding Rodion’s development as a player to date and we are excited to work very closely with them through the summer and into the future."
That statement suggests that Amirov will head back to the KHL on loan for the 2021-22 season, where he plays for Ufa Salavat Yulayev. In fact, Chris Johnston of Sportsnet even tweets that Amirov may be back in Russia for the 2022-23 season as well if he fails to make the NHL roster. In 39 regular-season games this season, he recorded 13 points and was held scoreless in nine postseason matches.
Importantly, Johnston also reports that Amirov will not have any performance bonuses built into his entry-level deal, making it easier for the Maple Leafs to recall him when they feel he is ready.
Selected 15th overall in 2020, Amirov has shown flashes of brilliance in the KHL, but also often looks overmatched against players sometimes more than a decade his senior. When playing against similar-aged competition at the World Juniors, he fared a bit better, recording two goals and six points in seven games. It was really at the Karjala Cup, an international tournament in Finland, where Amirov really showed what he could do, earning top forward honors for the event. The Russians won the tournament despite sending their junior team.
The Maple Leafs won’t see him in the lineup anytime soon, but getting Amirov to sign was an important step towards getting him to North America permanently.